By Sandra Long Weaver
Tribune Editorial Director
First Lady Michelle Obama told the 200 graduates of Martin Luther King, Jr. High School today to learn the importance of community, be prepared to learn from failures and dig deep to find your passion.
Mrs. Obama addressed the students, their families and friends in the Gentry Building on campus of Tennessee State University in just under 20 minutes.
She then handed a diploma and gave a hug to each graduate as they walked across the stage. As each name was called, the college each plans to attend was also called. Every student will be attending college in the fall, a fact Mrs. Obama noted in her speech.
“We need you not just to go to college but to graduate from college,” she said. Today only one in five African-Americans between 25 and 29 have degrees.
“You’ll have to re-create the system of support you’ve always had,” she said. “It’s so much harder to get through college if you’re trying to do it all on your own.”
She said she wasn’t used to failure when she got to college and had to make adjustments just as these students will have to do. She said they will see that failure is often the key to success.
She talked about Steve Jobs and Oprah and Barack Obama having failures early in their careers. “I could take the afternoon talking about his failures, she joked. “And now he gets to call himself my husband,” she said to the laughter of the audience.
“Do not waste a minute living someone else’s dream,” she said to applause. “It takes a lot of work to find it (your passion). But you can only find it by looking inside yourself.”
Don’t be afraid to veer off course and take life in another direction, Mrs. Obama said. “Right here, right now, you have the tools for greatness.”